When I was in college, a friend and I went Trick-Or-Treating in a neighorhood just off of campus. The war in Afghanistan had started, and I can't remember if the war in Iraq had begun or was merely on the way. He had spent time in the army before college. As we went from house to house, we came upon one inviting doorway with a banner in the window. He recognized it as a service banner, though somehow he had missed that the stars used on such were blue and gold, instead of blue and black. Because of this (the gold star mothers' reactions to the wars had not hit the news yet), we spent a good ten minutes standing there on the sidewalk trying to decide whether we were about to thank a family for candy and the service of two sons, or candy and the sacrifice of two sons.
Luckily for us and the emotions of the mother who answered the door, we realized the stars were navy blue before we walked up to the door and rung the doorbell.
Unfortunately for Sarah Palin's media image, and potentially for many other Americans with relatives serving overseas, a company making bracelets for military families has not taken such care in their color choices.
There have been at least two diaries today quoting a blog article lambasting Sarah Palin for wearing a black memorial bracelet in honor of the military service of a still-living soldier son, Track.
Small problem: she's not wearing a memorial bracelet. She's wearing a dark bronze bracelet from HeroBracelets, designed for friends and family of deployed service members.
Big problem: every other color they make is clearly different from all the other designs, and especially from the black memorial bracelets. With any amount of additional darkening, the dark bronze bracelets would come to resemble the memorial black, something that is not true of any other design in their product line, including several other color options for deployment bracelets.
Since the lettering appears to be the same for both designs, the only way for someone not familiar with the existence of a near-black bracelet to tell the difference after any darkening of the metal might be reading the bracelet to see the absence or presence of a death date.
There are family members who have written to tell the company they are not taking these bracelets off until their loved one is home. A year of constant wearing will darken many metals with that starting appearance. Even if the company were to coat the metal to reduce or remove this effect, the simple grime of wearing could create a similar effect with time.
Sarah Palin just has to worry with liberal bloggers asking why she's wearing the wrong type of bracelet.
What about the family members of other still-deployed soldiers who could potentially receive a more personal version of the same backlash for simply stating "My son/brother/father/uncle is not dead" in response to a well-meaning stranger's response to a bracelet that looked black?
What about the family members of the fallen who might be asked where a family member was serving based on a stranger's acquaintance with dark bronze deployment bracelet and ignorance of the black memorial ones in a nearly identical style?
There's a reason the blue and gold stars on service flags look different. Service bracelets ought to follow a similar pattern of difference, even if the colors used are not blue and gold.